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Why Does My 3 Month Old Kitten Still Try to Nurse?

If your 3 month old kitten is still trying to nurse you may be confused and wondering if this is normal…

Why Does My 3 Month Old Kitten Still Try to Nurse?

Kittens who try to nurse after three months may have been weaned too early.  There are also certain breeds that are more likely to nurse longer.  Your kitten may also be bored or lacking playful stimulation in her day. She may also still nurse because there is no alternative food available.

So, now you know. But, why do they try to nurse on soft objects? Why do kittens nurse, in general? At what age do they usually stop? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

Why do kittens try to nurse on soft objects?

A person feeding a kitten.

A person feeding a kitten.

If your kitten is trying to nurse on soft objects or on you, it probably means they were weaned too early. Kittens need their mom until about 12 weeks, but some people take them from mom at eight weeks.

This is too early and will cause this type of nursing behavior. Also, some kittens (click here if your cat is licking it from behind), such as the Siamese, have this tendency.

For the most part, this depends on whether they still have access to their mom or not. It’s quite normal for a kitten to nurse at three months and even beyond in some breeds.  

While he may slowly outgrow nursing as mom continues to teach him about hard food, he will likely continue to knead. Kneading is something kittens do to stimulate milk flow, and even into adulthood, many cats continue doing this.

It could also be a lack of fun or playtime. Spend some time with your kitten, letting him chase a string around or a cat toy to give him something to do. Or maybe all he needs is a good cuddle.

Why Do Kittens Nurse?

Three silver cats.

Three silver cats.

A kitten nurses to get milk from her mother. Like all mammals, kittens get their nutrients from their mother for the first month or so of their life.  

If you have ever had the luck of being at the birth of kittens, you would be awed at how their instincts kick in. They have the ability to smell their mother’s milk, even with their eyes closed. And they easily find their way to their mother’s nipples.

At What Age Do Most Kittens Stop Nursing?

For the most part, mothers will start weaning their babies between about four and fives weeks. The first three weeks of a kitten’s life are also wholly devoted to nursing.

After the third week, the mother will slowly wean her kitten and give them more time to roam free. By the time they are between six and seven weeks old, they will be off their mother’s milk and begin eating solid food.

Will Kittens Stop Nursing on Their Own?

After nursing from mom for around three weeks to a month, they will slowly get weaned by her. While they do prefer her milk over solid food, they will gradually stop nursing by themselves.

Some kittens may take longer than others to stop nursing, depending on how quickly they are growing.

How Can I Prevent My Cat From Nursing?

Just quietly remove the nursing kitten from its mother. If the kitten is trying to nurse on you or a blanket, simply set him down on the ground and walk away. Consistency is key, so be sure you are committed to breaking the habit.

You can also distract your kitten by playing with him or offering a treat. The most important thing to remember is, you never want to take a kitten away from its mother before eight weeks.

But if it’s after that and you want to try to break them of the habit, the easiest way to do it is to stop him whenever you see him doing it. Be gentle, don’t ever jerk him away.

Can it Hurt a Mother Cat When She Nurses Her Kittens?

It generally should not hurt a mother to nurse her kittens. However, if she gets mastitis, that’s a different story. Mastitis is a bacterial infection in the milk ducts.

When a mother cat is pregnant, and after her kittens are born, her breast glands are stimulated to produce milk. This can be a stressful event for her, and the kitten’s sharp teeth can introduce bacteria.

If a mother’s immune system isn’t strong enough to fight off that bacteria, she can develop an infection. Mastitis is very painful and must be treated by a veterinarian, or the mother cat can become very ill.

Another thing to consider is that prolonged nursing can lead to stress for the mother. She may feel she needs to provide longer than necessary. While this may not hurt her physically, you never want an animal under stress.

How Can You Get Your Mother Cat to Wean Her Kittens?

By the time a kitten is three or four weeks old, a mother cat will start to encourage weaning by slowly cutting down on feeding time. You can assist mom by placing a shallow dish of kitten replacement milk, which you can get at pet stores or from your veterinarian.

Never offer a kitten cow’s milk as it can cause severe stomach upset. You can dip your finger into the dish of replacement milk and let the kitten lick it off. Slowly guide the kitten to the milk in the bowl.

Don’t be surprised if your kitten walks right into his bowl of milk. Remember, they are used to using their paws to get milk from mom.

And don’t ever push a kitten’s face into milk. They can easily inhale the liquid and develop pneumonia and other lung problems.

If you are looking for milk replacement, make sure you buy an adequate amount. Kittens eat a lot! Though it’s not mother’s milk, milk replacement supplements can provide needed nutrients, and it’s easily digested.

Remember that it may not be easy to help with the transition, but the results will come. Just have patience.

Will a Mother Cat’s Milk be Affected if She Starts Mating?

A mother cat’s milk won’t be affected if she starts mating but there is more to it. You may have heard that a mother cat can not get pregnant if they are still nursing. However, this is not true.

A cat’s heat cycle, also called estrus, will begin about four weeks after weaning, so she may be nursing and in heat at the same time. There have not been any proven signs that a mother cat’s milk quality is affected if she’s pregnant.

However, being in heat can sometimes affect the quality of her milk and cause kittens to get indigestion. It can also affect the mother’s desire to feed her babies. She can become somewhat inattentive and restless.

Can a Pregnant Cat Still Nurse its Kittens?

It is safe for a pregnant cat to nurse, and some organizations will do this if they come across an orphan kitten and they happen to have a pregnant cat. In most cases, she should accept the new kitten without any problems.

Why Does My Kitten Nurse on a Male Cat?

Chances are, this is a comfort thing. If you have ever noticed, newborn human babies will try to nurse on anything they can fit their tiny mouths around. Newborn calves will happily nurse on your finger in the hopes of getting some milk.

Nursing makes kittens feel safe, and while attempting to nurse from a male cat won’t get them far nutrients-wise, it’s perfectly acceptable.

If a neutered male is relatively mellow, he will usually have no problems letting a kitten suckle on him. Kittens do this as a form of comfort, and most male cats don’t have a problem with it.

It certainly won’t hurt either of them. Think of it like a child suckling their thumb for comfort or carrying around a blanket.

Lindsey Browlingdon